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 Post subject: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:00 pm 
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I am a massive fan of movies with huge special effects. At varies stages during my life I saw what I considered at the time to be the ultimate effects movie. Jurassic Park was certainly one though today it hardly rates as anything at all.
Tonight I watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon (No Megan Fox unfortunately). From an effects point of view this has to be the greatest film of all time. I know however in 10 years time it will seem dated and not that good. At this time though I just can't see what can top these realistic, complex visual images.
So my question is, How will special effects improve in the future. Ok, I guess an easy answer will be computer generated people who are indistinguishable to real ones.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:05 pm 
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Interesting point about special effects: with animated cartoon films, sometimes the filmmakers will use hand-carved miniatures of sets then add the characters digitally. I found this kind of neat.

About the future of special effects, right now I think that special effects are as far as they are going to go. The only thing that remains is for computers to make everything easier to do...then everyone will be able to make films like Tranformers and the best films will have incredible detail that is made by computers.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:44 pm 
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I agree with Quicksolver but I'd also like to point out that special effects is an art. Even though computers have taken over much of the art, ease of use doesn't guarantee good results. I can't just take a dremel to a V-Cube 7 and expect to come up with a beautiful sculpture with endless symmetry, and similarly, it will always take years of experience to produce what you see in action films today. This is what makes art so unique. Computers can simulate physics and science with no problem, but they can never make art 'beautiful', whether it be musical or visual or other categories. Special effects is no different.

I'd like to also point out special effects in the gaming world as well as the film one. I was raised on SNES Mario Kart and Donkey Kong Country and A Link to the Past, and then the Nintendo 64 introduced new levels of realism that just seemed so novel that now are 'mediocre'. Look at a game from XBox or PS3 now. Those characters/objects/etc look like they're real. The effects are so convincing. You could very easily just be watching a movie.

So, in answer of your question, I think special effects already can do everything it is capable of.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:47 pm 
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Once special effects technology becomes easier to use and more widely available, I think the whole business will go down the drain. If only an elite group of learned and trained professionals can do something, then you will get art and the occasional piece of crap that didn't quite pan out as expected.

If everyone can, then you will get a tiny island of what is left of the good 'art of the past' floating amid a sea of crap.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:23 pm 
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Monopoly wrote:
If everyone can, then you will get a tiny island of what is left of the good 'art of the past' floating amid a sea of crap.


Kind of reminds me of Youtube videos.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:24 pm 
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Monopoly wrote:
Once special effects technology becomes easier to use and more widely available, I think the whole business will go down the drain. If only an elite group of learned and trained professionals can do something, then you will get art and the occasional piece of crap that didn't quite pan out as expected.

If everyone can, then you will get a tiny island of what is left of the good 'art of the past' floating amid a sea of crap.


There is so much wrong with this statement that I don't know where to begin.

Let's use videos as a counterexample. Youtube is indeed mostly a "sea of crap" but there are also plenty of awesome things on there that would only be possible if video recording technology had advanced to the point of being available to everyone.

Availability is good! It allows creative people to try things they never would have been able to in years past. The inevitable flood of crap is not a good reason to deny truly talented people this ability. How much has Shapeways done for the puzzle community? Without it we would never have seen the talents of people like Timur and Tom.


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:05 pm 
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I think saying special effects are already maxed out and are only going to get easier now is way off basis. Such a statement reminds me of this. There is still a huge amount of research going into rendering, especially strange surfaces such as skin.

Special effect makers are still very limited in the number of particles they can simulate, global illumination, realistic motion, etc.

It is true that current graphics are quite good and without improving anything except the speed of the computers they are rendered on will make better graphics available.

But improved algorithms and techniques will take special effects to the next level. Conferences like SIGGRAPH wouldn't exist if there weren't true. See http://kesen.realtimerendering.com/sig2011.html.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:07 pm 
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Jared wrote:
Let's use videos as a counterexample. Youtube is indeed mostly a "sea of crap" but there are also plenty of awesome things on there that would only be possible if video recording technology had advanced to the point of being available to everyone. [a]

Availability is good! It allows creative people to try things they never would have been able to in years past. The inevitable flood of crap is not a good reason to deny truly talented people this ability. How much has Shapeways done for the puzzle community? Without it we would never have seen the talents of people like Timur and Tom.

[a] this 'island of talent' would still exist, just only with people who knew their way around the software. the ratio of crap to talent would be considerably less. a talented cinematographer today would still be talented if the software were a bit more esoteric, since they would take the time to learn it. (not that I'm complaining about iMovie.)
[b] 3D modeling (CAD) still isn't simple or widely-available (ex. good [b]and free) enough for most normal people to just pick it up and use it. Anyone can pick up a camera and shoot a short clip, and edit it up a bit in stock software like WMM or iMovie, with only basic knowledge of the equipment. Not everyone can design a functioning puzzle without at least some prior training.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:19 pm 
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Monopoly wrote:
a talented cinematographer today would still be talented if the software were a bit more esoteric, since they would take the time to learn it. (not that I'm complaining about iMovie.)
...
Anyone can pick up a camera and shoot a short clip, and edit it up a bit in stock software like WMM or iMovie, with only basic knowledge of the equipment. Not everyone can design a functioning puzzle without at least some prior training.

I'd like to disagree with you there. iMovie and WMM are terrible video editing software and you can get freeware that is far superior to both of these programs. You're so restricted by its simplicity. You can't get 'good' at this software. You can get good at Garage Band or Excel, since those have features for the beginners but more for the experts to learn. WMM and iMovie don't offer this.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:03 pm 
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Ease of use, in my opinion, is merely an advantage to the inevitable progress that special effects technology will make. Research now will pave the way for better skin, and special effects artists will be able to add realism. Perhaps, you argue, we are already at a point where realism is no longer an issue. By realism, here I mean plausibility. If you look at the original example of Transformers, the special effects are nice, and the robots are particularly realistic. But I found that they often didn't quite fit in and were merely a sort of way to put the characters in the story, but were a bit limited. Technology can advance to the point where we can have those robots and see how they work. Detail will be the new special effects.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:43 pm 
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Tony Fisher wrote:
So my question is, How will special effects improve in the future. Ok, I guess an easy answer will be computer generated people who are indistinguishable to real ones.


There is lots of room for advancement behind the scenes. Costs can be reduced by faster rendering, reducing the skill necessary to produce the effects, real-time visualization for directors, etc. Hobbyists can produce better effects on laptops today than ILM could pull off for Jurrasic Park in the early 1990s, and that trend will continue.

But for what you actually see on screen, I believe you've hit on it. From the perspective of the audience, photorealistic, completely believable humans that don't look creepy when they move. We're not there quite yet.

Humans have evolved to detect extremely subtle flaws in human facial appearance and movement, leading to the "uncanny valley" effect where rough cartoons look less creepy than more realistic attempts. The digital make-up in Benjamin Button is probably the best effort so far. (The youthened Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy was a bit embarrassing.)

Otherwise... I think we now have the ability to put anything on screen a director can envision. Now we just need to apply some restraint, like not making virtual cameras move in completely unrealistic ways that betray that the scene is a figment of a computer's imagination.


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 5:06 am 
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3D explosions can be much more realistic because at the moment, you dont really see the balls of fire superposing correctly

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 5:18 am 
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Special effects will become:

1. More common, as the tools become cheaper, faster, more widely available and easier to use for more people.
2. Even more realistic (especially people/animals in natural-looking environments, and faster video games).
3. Applied to 3D cinematography, as it advances to holograms in your living room!
4. Used for interactive tutorials and classroom teaching aids, with flawless real-time holographic rendering...

"OK class, I put together a little treat for us last night with the VR software teacher's sample pack: today we are going to visit a volcano on Venus and fly around it, inside it and then swim through the lava as it errupts. Please try to remember that this is not real, so nobody will be hurt, but stay close to me and hold each other's hands for reassurance. First we must fly out of the classroom window and zoom up into space. You may feel some discomfort, but don't worry, that's just the supersonic boom..."

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Last edited by KelvinS on Sun Oct 02, 2011 6:04 am, edited 4 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 5:25 am 
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Joshua Bell wrote:
The digital make-up in Benjamin Button is probably the best effort so far. (The youthened Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy was a bit embarrassing.)

Funny you should mention that. I'm pretty sure Digital Domain did both of those effects

quicksolver wrote:
Detail will be the new special effects.

I've had to do some stuff like that: rigging up gear/chain systems so that everything turns at the correct speed. Re-creating boom cameras for tracking setups. Unfortunately, something that looks cool doesn't always work. But if the client thinks that's what it should look like, then that's what it's gonna look like and physics be damned. They're getting better about some of that stuff, but the neat part about CG is that you can make the impossible happen. And really, do I need to spend the time to make a working engine if all you're going to see is the body of the car?

bmenrigh wrote:
Special effect makers are still very limited in the number of particles they can simulate, global illumination, realistic motion, etc.

I certainly wouldn't go so far to say "very limited". We certainly have a particle constraint, but that limit is lifting tremendously and we're starting to hit the point of diminishing returns. We've got GI stuff figured out, the difficulty is taking the time to get an accurate render and getting an accurate representation of the current environment to illuminate so that we can bounce the light around. But, if you ever watch special features and you see some guys with matte and reflective balls on the ends of sticks, that's how we measure the incoming light.
And as for the realistic motion, that's more a question of an animator's skill than a limit to technology.

bmenrigh wrote:
It is true that current graphics are quite good and without improving anything except the speed of the computers they are rendered on will make better graphics available. But improved algorithms and techniques will take special effects to the next level. Conferences like SIGGRAPH wouldn't exist if there weren't true.

Now that, I completely agree with.
And if you like this kind of stuff, SIGGRAPH is amazing!


Kelvin Stott wrote:
2. Even more realistic (especially people/animals in natural-looking environments, and faster video games).

I wanted to point out that, though there is a lot of overlap, the realtime and rendered stuff use completely different ways to compute the frames. That's not to say that someday we won't be using RenderMan in real time though (hey, A guy can dream)


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 10:12 am 
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RubixFreakGreg wrote:
3D explosions can be much more realistic because at the moment, you dont really see the balls of fire superposing correctly


LOL


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:30 pm 
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One thing I often hear is people claiming: "With good CG there won't be any more need for actors". This misses a very important point which is of course the movement and voice. I've worked with many animators and to get even close to "real" looking animation takes a huge amount of talent and time. As such you wind up with motion capture for most animation that has to do with people and of course then you have... an actor :) And how can anyone conceive of not having an actor for the voice?

So don't think special effects will replace actors. But they sure can add to what an actor gives (think of the work done for Golem).

Dave

P.S. If you didn't already know, our own Jason Smith works for ILM and has been heavily involved in all of the Transformer movies. This may give you some idea of why he gets "busy" for many months at a time.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:40 pm 
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DLitwin wrote:
P.S. If you didn't already know, our own Jason Smith works for ILM and has been heavily involved in all of the Transformer movies. This may give you some idea of why he gets "busy" for many months at a time.

He's not the only influential twisty puzzler working for ILM either. Don Hatch, the primary author of the puzzle engine used by MC4D also works for them. Melinda Green, the other primary author works with Bram at BitTorrent.

I reckon them is smart folk those twisty puzzlers.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:49 pm 
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DLitwin wrote:
P.S. If you didn't already know, our own Jason Smith works for ILM and has been heavily involved in all of the Transformer movies........
That explains why his Petaminx looked better than ours (Frank and I)! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:53 pm 
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DLitwin wrote:
So don't think special effects will replace actors. But they sure can add to what an actor gives (think of the work done for Golem).

I'd like to add that the very act of acting is the essence of the whole art. If you think about it, actors like Jim Carrey or Leslie Nielsen put on a show that is not able to be done in animation. Sure someone may one day be able to get the appearance and movements and vocals right, but this just doesn't seem believable. It's too weird if you aren't watching real people.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:03 am 
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I have to say if there were no voices in Avatar I don’t think any of the story would be lost. And that was a really good special effect movie.


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 12:53 am 
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Rentlix wrote:
I'd like to add that the very act of acting is the essence of the whole art. If you think about it, actors like Jim Carrey or Leslie Nielsen put on a show that is not able to be done in animation. Sure someone may one day be able to get the appearance and movements and vocals right, but this just doesn't seem believable. It's too weird if you aren't watching real people.


IMO, Counterexample: Any Pixar movie.
Animators are actors through the computer. True, you usually have an actor's voice, but look at all of the animated shorts that Pixar does without any voice.
And it certainly isn't weird that you aren't watching an actual human in those cases.

Each actor is unique, so you're never going to end up with performances that are copies without rotomation or mocap. And even if you DO use those technologies, that stuff will only get 90% of the way there.


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:41 am 
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TBTTyler wrote:
IMO, Counterexample: Any Pixar movie.
This actually goes to Joshua's point:
Joshua Bell wrote:
Humans have evolved to detect extremely subtle flaws in human facial appearance and movement, leading to the "uncanny valley" effect where rough cartoons look less creepy than more realistic attempts.
Note that with all of their amazing talent, Pixar doesn't try to be realistic in the characters, just in certain effects like fur or lighting, or skin. Those are the things your brain can appreciate without rejecting. The characters are still stylized.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 3:40 pm 
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Since someone mentioned voicework, it raises the question: What is the state of the art and science in regards to voice synthesizing? I know things have progressed tremendously from the robotic voices used by the MS-DOS versions of JAWS, but I have not heard any current synthesized voices since at least 2005. Also, does the uncanny valley effect occur in regards to synthesized sounds?

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 11:53 pm 
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Jeffery Mewtamer wrote:
Also, does the uncanny valley effect occur in regards to synthesized sounds?
I imagine so. Have you ever heard phone menus that patch together numbers or sentences? Even drawing from real voice your brain can easily pick out that the cadence and tonality is wrong. I'm sure high end tech can smooth this, but humans spend decades getting to know what "normal" is and so what we take for granted is really quite complex.

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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:27 am 
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Jeffery Mewtamer wrote:
I have not heard any current synthesized voices since at least 2005.


If you have access to a Mac, open up a terminal window and type:

Code:
say twisty puzzles are awesome


For top-of-the-line synthesis, try and find recordings of Roger Ebert's new synthesized voice, which was reconstructed based on recordings of his TV shows from before he lost his voice to cancer. (Not quite the audio equivalent of motion capture, but similar.) It's quite well done, but still would not fool a native English speaker.


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 Post subject: Re: Special Effects, where can they go?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 07, 2011 10:15 am 
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http://www.euclideon.com/

That's all I have to add.

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